2669. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 9 November 1815

2669. Robert Southey to Mary Barker, 9 November 1815 ⁠* 

I am afraid Senhora that the letters which I wrote from Brussels did not reach their destination, for there is no allusion to them in those which we have received from the Venerable & the Juvenile Moon. Once was a second letter of wonders, carrying us if I recollect rightly, to Ghent, – the other was to yourself & brought our history as far as Brussels. [1]  I found it impossible to write anything more than my Journal, [2]  which occupied every minute I could spare, even on those days when we were stationary. You know how little leisure is to be obtained in a foreign country, when your curiosity is always on the alert, & eyes & ears both upon active service from morning till night.

You shall however have our whole history in due form when we return. My Journal is very full. That portion which relates to the fields of battle I shall extract & affix either as preface or postscript to my projected poem. [3]  The rest I may arrange & fill up at leisure to leave among my papers. Here in London I can find time for nothing, & to make things worse the Devil, who owes me an old grudge, has made me sit to Phillips for a picture for Murray. [4]  I have in time been tormented in this manner so often & to such little purpose, that I am half tempted to suppose the Devil was the inventor of portrait painting.

Today (Thursday) we are to see the Lord Mayor’s Show. It is raining & will continue to rain. We go in about an hour to Rickmans, to see the water part of the pageant. Then to Josiah Conders in S Pauls Church Yard to see the procession by land. Tomorrow for Streatham, between which place & Champion Hill (Mrs. Gonnes) we shall remain till the Saturday of next week, – on that day we go to John Mays, & return from his house to London on the Monday; then after four or at the utmost five days we set off on our return, for which we are all equally impatient. I am weary of this continual movement & bustle, & long most heartily to be once more at home, & at work, – the best kind of rest.

I have brought for the Mountain Marshal [5]  a cuirassiers pistol from the spoils at Waterloo, & also a piece of kickmanjiggery from Aix-la-Chapelle which being a very out-of-way sort of thing & pretending to be useful is more fit for the said Marshal than for any body else. There is as yet no news of any of my books. – There are some Dutch volumes among them (lives of the painters) with heads by Houbracken, [6]  – some of the very finest of his works.

I am writing upon Herberts desk, – & I mend my pen with Herberts knife, – a knife of queer cut from Namur containing two blades, a corkscrew, a steel for striking fire to light his pipe, & an instrument for picking the pipe: – the latter will serve to untie parcels, & I have a flint from Waterloo with which he may strike light when we want a fire by the lake side. – We have a friar apiece for Kate & Isabel , a friar on horseback for Bertha & two nuns who are to be disposed of I know not how. Betty [7]  will be glad to hear that I have been remindful of her commission, & bought four spunges yesterday, taking Shedaw for my councellor in the choice. We are to spend one whole morning in shopping before we leave London.

Whether I am one of those persons who know how to spend & how to spare is not for me to determine: but I have been both spending & sparing more than I wished. ‘My gold has fled like chaff before the wind’ [8]  – You will lend me 100£ on my return, to set all straight as they say in Cumberland, – & it will not be very long before I shall be able to set that account straight also. Roderick [9]  is doing well, & has given me a good lift: its work is not done yet, & it may possibly set me fairly afloat in smooth water. My Waterloo poem will get me more credit than money. There is one friend to whom I look for both, – that eminent physician whose house I reconnoitred at Doncaster.* [10] 

God bless you. Love from all & to all, – & kisses, as many as you please to give, to the kissable part of the family. The Doctor in particular desires his remembrances. You must not go to London this winter & perhaps next year I may accompany you to visit the ruins of Paris. I almost expect a massacre of the allied troops & the destruction of that city. [11]  [MS torn]

The first Mina [12]  is in London & I shall see him. My letters need not be sent. – Remember me to the General & Mrs. Peachy. The other General (Mrs Coleridges friend) I have seen. he is living with a Jewish quack, who calls himself an Italian. – the most impudent of his fraternity: this fellows name is on the door, & I believe he lives upon the General, whose credulity in such things amounts to absolute insanity. [13]  Once more God bless you. I long to sing my bravura at home once more

Yrs affectionately


Thursday 9 Nov. 1815.  [14] 


* Address: To/ Miss Barker/ Greta Hall/ Keswick/ Cumberland
Postmark: FREE 9 NO 9 1815; London Ninth November 1815; Free J. Rickman
MS: MS untraced; text is taken from Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick, ‘The Letters of Robert Southey to Mary Barker From 1800 to 1826’ (unpublished PhD, Harvard, 1967), pp. 440–443
Previously published: John Wood Warter (ed.), Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, 4 vols (London, 1856), III, pp. 1–4. BACK

[1] Southey to Mary Barker, 1 October 1815, Letter 2657. BACK

[2] The Journal was finally published as Journal of a Tour in the Netherlands in the Autumn of 1815 (1902). BACK

[3] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816). Southey did not carry out his intention to include parts of his Journal. BACK

[4] Thomas Phillips (1770–1845; DNB), portrait painter. BACK

[5] A nickname for Mary Barker. BACK

[6] Arnold Houbracken (1660–1719), De Groote schouburgh der Nederlands konstschilders en schilderessen (1718–1721), no. 1455 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[7] Betty Thompson (dates unknown), a servant at Greta Hall. BACK

[8] Job, 21: 18. BACK

[9] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[10] Southey’s projected book on the fictional Dr Daniel Dove of Doncaster eventually became The Doctor (1834–1847). BACK

[11] The eastern borders of France were occupied by 150,000 allied troops until France had paid off an indemnity of 700,000 francs. BACK

[12] Francisco Javier de Mina (1789–1817), nephew of General Espoz de Mina (1781–1836) and guerrilla leader in Navarre 1808–1810. He, too, had fled Spain after his uncle’s failed rising. However, he went to France, rather than Britain. BACK

[13] Unidentified. BACK

[14] Mary Barker adds note at end of MS: ‘* His premeditated work, “Doctor Daniel Dove, of Doncaster,” which was to have been dedicated to me. Mary Slade.’ BACK

Places mentioned

Streatham (mentioned 1 time)